Head to your local gun shop to purchase some ammunition for your AR-15, and you likely will come out empty-handed. Ammo is so hard to find right now that many people are looking into reloading so they can continue to train and maintain their supply.
And of course a reloading press, which assembles all the ammunition components into a shootable round, is the first and most important piece of equipment you need if you want to get into reloading.
The best press for people just getting started reloading or those on a budget is a single-stage press. What is a single-stage press, and why should someone buy one?
I’m so glad you asked.
Lee Breech Lock Challenger Kit
Lee Breech Lock Challenger Kit
RCBS Rebel Master Reloading Kit
RCBS Rebel Master Reloading Kit
Lyman Brass Smith Victory Press Reloading Kit
Lyman Brass Smith Victory Press Reloading Kit
Forster Co-Ax Press
Forster Co-Ax Press
Let’s take a look at the different types of presses and provide some recommendations so you can find the right press for your needs.
What Exactly is a Single-Stage Reloading Press?
A single stage reloading press reloads one round, one step at a time. It uses a mechanical lever arm that, when pulled, performs a single action, such as resizing, depriming (which removes the primer from a case), or decapping.
This type of press holds a single die that needs to be swapped out as you move through the reloading process. Because you can only do one step at a time, people typically process their ammo in batches.
First you resize all your cases one at a time, then you prime all your cases and so on. The best single stage reloading press can make high-quality ammunition, but it takes time and can be tedious.
The extra care and time it takes to load with a single-stage press can be beneficial for new reloaders though. It gives them a chance to participate in all the stages of reloading, helps them nail all the basics, and reduces the chance they make a mistake.
What About a Turret or Progressive Reloading Press?
To speed up reloading their ammo, some people choose a turret or a progressive reloading press, both of which automate some of the steps in the process of reloading. A turret press saves time by holding all the dies you need for reloading.
You don't need to swap out the dies as you do in a single-stage press. A turret press still only loads one round at a time, but you can reload that round from start to finish by merely rotating the turret.
Because you can do sequential steps without swapping out dies, it cuts down on the time it takes to reload and reduces how much you have to handle the cases.
A progressive reloading press is a massive time-saver as a single pull of the lever will process multiple rounds of ammo at once. As one bullet is being resized, another bullet is being filled with powder, and another is being crimped.
Progressive presses are recommended for experienced reloaders as the possibility of making a mistake is higher. Those people with reloading experience can spot mistakes while multitasking and pull those rounds before they are fired.
How To Choose the Best Single Stage Reloading Press Kit
Almost all single-stage presses are sold as a kit with most of the essential equipment you need to reload. Most kits include the press, a digital scale to weigh powder, and a lube kit for the press.
Some kits ship with extras beyond these basics, so you will want to choose a kit that balances price with accessories. If you buy a barebones kit, then be prepared to spend some extra cash purchasing the hardware that was not included in the kit.
Another distinguishing feature is the materials used in the press. Heavy-duty presses use a solid steel or classic cast iron frame and can handle almost any caliber, while lightweight presses use aluminum.
Aluminum isn't bad, it’s just lighter. It’s great for most common rounds like 9mm and 5.56 which are the rounds most people want to reload.
Another difference between single stage reloading presses is how you swap out dies. Almost all of the best single stage reloading presses use standard 7/8"-14 inch diameter threaded dies, but some kits like the Lee and Hornady presses use a quick lock die system.
Instead of threading the length of the die into the press, a quick lock system uses a quick change bushing that attaches to the die. The bushing allows you to simply drop a die into the press and twist it to lock it in.
These quick change die systems take the pain out of switching dies and make using a single stage press more enjoyable.
One final feature to consider is priming. Some presses require you to prime the case by hand which gives you control over the depth of the primer, but can be time-consuming. Other presses will prime right on the press with the handle functioning as a primer arm. Priming on the press is convenient, especially if the press can hold multiple primers at one time.
Best Single-Stage Reloading Presses Reviewed
With all that in mind, let’s take a look at the best single-stage reloading presses out there. These aren’t just the ones we found on Amazon, these are the ones we’ve actually tested and used, and any one of them would make for a great first reloading setup, or a reloading setup for shooters on a budget.
1. Hornady Lock-N-Load Classic Reloading Press - Best Single Stage Press
The Hornady Lock-N-Load Classic single stage reloading press is a popular choice for first-time reloaders because of its ease-of-use and affordable price tag. Because it is so popular, you can find a ton of information and tutorials about this press. It’s a solid cast aluminum press that is rugged enough to handle most rounds.
The press gets its name from its bushing system that helps secure the die into the press. You don't have to fiddle with screwing in a die to the correct depth with the Lock-N-Load system. You simply drop the die into the holder and give it a 1/8 turn to lock it into the press. This system securely holds the die and makes swapping dies easy.
The Hornady single stage reloading press also can seat a primer with each pull of the handle. You do have to load the primers one at a time, unless you buy an optional accessory that holds multiple primers at once. The Classic kit does not include a hand primer.
If you prefer to prime by hand, you’ll need to purchase the more expensive Deluxe version of the kit. One drawback to the Lock-N-Load is the handle -- it's only designed for right-handed operation and can not be swapped to the other side for a left-handed person.
The Hornady Lock-N-Load Classic single stage reloading press is sold across multiple retailers and often can be found on sale or with a manufacturer rebate.
It is available in a Classic kit which costs less than $200 and contains a primer catch and three die bushings. There's also a Classic Deluxe kit which costs twice as much but includes almost everything you need to reload. Both kits are an excellent value for the package that you get.
The price of Hornady Lock-N-Load varies, so check the latest price at
2. Lee Challenger Breech Lock Press Kit - Best Affordable Press
The Lee Challenger Breech Lock press kit is the most affordable kit on our list. Lee is all about getting you into reloading with minimal effort and maximum safety and it shows. For about $150, you can get almost everything you need to reload your ammunition.
The Lee Breech Lock Challenger kit is filled with lots of extras including a primer pocket cleaner, powder measure tool, and a safety powder scale. It even has shell holders and a case length gauge which typically are not included with most kits. About the only thing you need to buy are the reloading dies and consumables like primers, powders and bullets.
Similar to the Hornady Lock-N-Load single stage reloading press, the Breech Lock Challenger press has a rapid-swap feature in the form of the Lee Precision Breech Lock quick change system that lets you add and change out dies quickly and easily.
This Lee precision press is available in an Anniversary Kit which has a press-based priming system and a Challenger Breech Kit with a standalone priming tool for those who prefer priming their brass by hand. Unlike the Hornady Press, the Lee classic press handle is ambidextrous.
Low prices don't always translate into poor quality. Though the cheapest on the list, the Lee single stage reloading press can still churn out some high-quality ammunition.
It's made from cast aluminum and is not as heavy-duty as the RCBS Rebel and other presses on our list, but it costs a fraction of the price. If you are looking to try out reloading and don't want to spend a fortune to get started, the Lee Challenger Breech is the kit for you.
Lee Precision Breech Lock Challenger
The price of Lee Precision Breech Lock Challenger varies, so check the latest price at
3. RCBS Rebel Master Reloading Kit - Most Versatile Press
New for 2020, the cast iron RCBS Rebel single stage reloading press is a tank. It's bulkier and beefier than the Rock Chucker Supreme, which it replaces in the RCBS lineup.
It has a broad base that makes it more stable on your bench, but it still keeps the same bolt pattern allowing you to use your existing mounting holes. The RCBS Rebel is filled with small improvements to make reloading easier.
Like the Rock Chucker, the Rebel has an ambidextrous handle that accommodates left or right-handed people. Another convenience feature is a new primer catcher system, which removes the spent primer and drops it right into a garbage can placed underneath the press.
One missing feature in this single stage reloading press is on-press priming, which lets you use the handle as a priming arm as well.
You need to prime the casing with a hand tool or a bench-mounted priming system. The RCBS Rebel Master Reloading kit comes with a hand priming tool, so you don't have to spend extra money on one.
The removal of the priming feature makes the press easier to clean and provides more room to work, but it does make the Rebel a little less desirable for those who want to prime on the press.
If you prefer to prime by hand, then you cannot go wrong with the RCBS Rebel. At $400, it costs more than the competition, but it’’s rock solid design will provide many years of reliable reloading.
If you cannot find the Rebel in stock, then look for the RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme press or the RCBS Summit. Both the Rock Chucker Supreme press and the Summit have proven track records, stellar press reviews, and are favorites among the reloading community.
RCBS Rebel Master Reloading
The price of RCBS Rebel Master Reloading varies, so check the latest price at
4. Lyman Brass Smith Victory Press Reloading Kit
Lyman earns praise for producing a streamlined single stage reloading press kit that has quality materials that you do need and really nothing you don't need.
Similar to Lyman’s other Brass Smith line of presses, the Victory single stage reloading press is made from cast iron. It is a heavy-duty press that'll easily handle any round you throw at it.
It has on-press priming with support for holding multiple primers and an easy-to-use lever method of priming the brass. With one up and down cycle of the handle, you can resize, de-prime and prime.
You then can remove the primed brass casing, add a new ceasing, and repeat the cycle again. It's much easier than competing systems that require you to add the primers one at a time.
The ambidextrous handle is long and provides excellent leverage for reloading rifle cases and military rounds. One bonus is side access to the shell holder for removing and adding cases without any obstructions.
The Lyman press is priced around $300 making it competitive with the Hornady Lock-N-Load. The Victory is more rugged than the Lock-N-Load, but the Lyman kit lacks the hand primer and other accessories you get with the Hornady or Lee kits.
Lyman 7726350 Brass Smith
The price of Lyman 7726350 Brass Smith varies, so check the latest price at
5. Forster Co-ax Press - Best Reloading Press For Accuracy
As its name implies, the Forster Co-Ax single stage reloading press is a co-axial frame press that distributes a maximum load with minimal pressure because of its co-axial frame design. It's so easy to charge the handle that Forster claims you can operate the press with your little finger.
The Forster Co-Ax accepts standard dies that screw in securely at the top of the press. It also is ambidextrous with a handle that is centered in the middle of the press.
The Forster Co-Ax single stage reloading press uses a unique shell holder system called Jaws that uses an adjustable spring-loaded jaw instead of shell holders. The Jaws open and close on the case, ensuring perfect alignment of the case and the die.
This alignment is critical for bullet seating and crimping. Not only does this Jaw system save you money because you don't have to purchase shell holders, but it also makes reloading much easier. You don't have to fuss with installing and removing a shell holder whenever you change the caliber that you are reloading.
The Forster Co-Ax press includes the "S" jaw for most calibers, but you can purchase "LS" jaws for less common calibers like 218 Bee, 22 Hornet, and 25 ACP.
Unlike most presses, the Forster Co-Ax is available as a standalone press and not part of a kit. With a manufacturer suggested retail price of $500, it's an expensive press for those who are committed to reloading their ammunition for years to come.
Forster Co-Ax Press
The price of Forster Co-Ax Press 028271 varies, so check the latest price at
Upgrades and Accessories to Consider for Your Single-Stage Reloading Press
Purchasing a single stage reloading press in a kit will get you started on the path to reloading your ammunition. However, there still are a few critical pieces of reloading equipment you will need to purchase separately.
First and foremost, you'll need a reloading manual. It’s a huge book that’ll walk you through the reloading process from start to finish. The guidebook provides recipe-style information on what primers, bullets and powders you will need for every caliber of ammunition available.
You’ll also need to purchase reloading dies for each caliber of ammunition you want to reload. You cannot reload without a die. Each single stage reloading press manufacturer makes die sets for different calibers.
We recommend you purchase the same brand as your reloading kit for convenience. These dies usually are interchangeable between presses, though, so you can use an RCBS die in Lee press, for example. Most dies cost between $30 and $60 depending on the manufacturer and the caliber.
Another critical component is a case length gauge. A case length gauge lets you measure your reused brass to ensure it is at the proper length for reloading. You can trim a case that is too long and discard a case that is too short.
If you plan on reloading brass that you've fired or collected from a range (if you're allowed to do so), then you'll need a way to clean the brass.
Our favorite cleaner is the ultrasonic case cleaner from RCBS. It's affordable and does a great job cleaning brass without all the dust you get from a rotary/tumbler cleaner. Most people end up purchasing a cleaner, but it is optional and only needed if you want to use your own brass.
You can purchase new brass or pre-cleaned brass that is ready for reloading, or you can scrounge some from your buddies at the range, but be prepared to be called a “Brass Goblin”.
Buying a single stage reloading press is one of the first purchases you should make before you begin reloading your own ammunition.
Start with the amount you want to spend and look for a single stage reloading press that fits into that price range.
If you want a complete package, then look at the Lee Challenger Breech single stage reloading press. It has extras, like a case length gauge, that other kits don't include. The Hornady Lock-N-Load single stage reloading press is a popular choice, which means there are many tutorials available for this press.
These tutorials walk you through all the nitty-gritty details, which are useful when you are just beginning. You can't go wrong with any of the presses on our list. They all will reload quality ammunition for your handgun or rifle and won't cost you a fortune.
Hopefully now you know everything you need to know about single-stage reloading presses, but we want to hear all your other reloading questions! Drop a comment down below and we’ll be happy to chat with you, and maybe you’ll even see an article covering your question in the future!